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San Antonio Life Sciences Institute awards $750,000 to innovators

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(Aug. 20, 2014) -- The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) today announced the awarding of more than $750,000 in grants through the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI) Innovation Challenge.

Launched in 2003, SALSI is a model of how a general academic institution (UTSA) and an academic health science center join forces for greater research and graduate education.

The Innovation Challenge funds collaborative studies, with a focus on public health issues and diseases of global impact. Funding will support early and conceptual stages of project development. Awardees in this grant cycle are studying immunity, microorganisms and cancer.

The following one-year awards begin Sept. 1:

"Interrogating the Bacterial Glycome: Assignment of Specific Glycan Structure to Elements of the Innate Immune Response"
James Chambers, Ph.D., Professor -- Award $100,000
UTSA College of Sciences Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Peter Dube, Ph.D., UTHSCSA Associate Professor -- Award $100,000
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Glycomics is the study of the biological role of carbohydrates. This inaugural collaborative effort between UTSA and the Health Science Center is the first step in establishing and nurturing this emerging area of research in San Antonio.

"Challenging the Morphology-Virulence Paradigm in Pathogenic Candida Species"
Jose Lopez-Ribot, Pharm.D., Ph.D., Professor -- Award $100,000
UTSA College of Sciences Department of Biology
David Kadosh, Ph.D., Associate Professor -- Award $100,000
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Candidiasis, the fourth leading cause of hospital-acquired bloodstream infections in the United States, is a disease of global impact. Currently, only three major classes of antifungals are available to treat the disease. This research will provide greater insight into the relationship between morphology and virulence in Candida species and suggest new and more effective strategies for the treatment of candidiasis.

"Establishment of Pancreatic Microenvironment Ex Vivo to Grow and Preserve Pancreatic Islets"
Joo L. Ong, Ph.D., Professor -- Award $100,000
UTSA College of Engineering Department of Biomedical Engineering
Xiao-Dong Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Professor -- Award $100,000
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry Department of Comprehensive Dentistry

Diabetes is a major challenge for the national and global public health community in the 21st century. In Texas, the incidence of diabetes is two to three times higher than the national average. Current treatment for diabetes involves therapies and management strategies for the disease but does not offer cures or reversals of complications. Ong and Chen's research hopes to further bolster insulin independence for Type I diabetes through improved allogeneic islet transplantation.

"Cancer Impairs Macrophage Function"
Floyd Wormley, Ph.D., Associate Professor -- Award $74,593
UTSA College of Sciences Department of Biology
Carlos Orihuela, Ph.D., Associate Professor -- Award $93,462
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In cancer patients, infections are the leading immediate cause of death. Yet little research has focused on why individuals with cancer are more susceptible to infection. This is an important lapse that, if addressed, may reduce patient suffering, facilitate the administration of potentially curative therapeutics, and prolong survival.

The 77th Legislature created SALSI by passing House Bill 1716, authored by former Rep. Robert Puente and sponsored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. The goal was to develop synergies in research and education that would exceed the combined efforts of the Health Science Center and UTSA if each were acting alone.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health funding. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 29,000 graduates. The $765 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways "We Make Lives Better," visit the UTHSCSA website.

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is an emerging Tier One research institution specializing in health, energy, security, sustainability, and human and social development. With nearly 29,000 students, it is the largest university in the San Antonio metropolitan region. UTSA advances knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. The university embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property -- for Texas, the nation and the world.

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